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I swear by all the Gods and to anyone who will listen, I did NOT want to do this! However, as always, Ted –excuse me: Paul R. Bear — had other ideas…

Withdrawal Symptoms
By Dagmar Buse


I sighed. Not for the first time during the last few days, I might add.

"Ted, if I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times: You can't talk to Murray right now. Mele's computer is in for repairs, and won't be back until Monday, or so. As soon as she has it back, I'm sure Murray will e-mail you right away."

I was trying for a calm, reasonable tone. Although he is very good at providing me with fic ideas full of angst and trauma, not to mention some rather … naughty … stuff, Ted is still a very young Muse, really. Let's say he has the attention span of a four-year-old, attitude like a typical fourteen-year-old teenager, and the vocabulary of a forty-year-old truck driver. Yep, sounds about right.

He looked at me out of his glittering black eyes which were almost hidden by his insanely fluffy white fur. I really have to get another shampoo for him; polar bears are not supposed to look like Persian kittens who have gotten their tails caught in an electrical socket, do they?

"YOU are talking to Mele," he said, accusingly.

"Only briefly, in very general terms, and although her boss has allowed her to use the office computer, we don't want her to get into trouble, do we?"

Ted glared at me rebelliously. Before he could say another word, I forestalled him.

"Besides, you know that Murray is at her house, getting acquainted with the little guy you sent over to him. He's not even at Mele's office. You'll just have to wait until he's back online."

"He'll probably get eaten by that rabid dog of Mele's … or she'll fry him in batter …"

"Sautee, Ted, sautee. Mele never wanted to fry Murray. Just cook him nice and slow in a delicious white wine sauce …"

My feeble attempt at humour didn't work. On the contrary, it made matters worse. Now I did not only have a sulky Muse, he was turning on the waterworks as well. Big crocodile tears started to flow out of those beady black eyes, dripping off the cute little black button nose onto Ted's freshly-shampooed and blow-dried fur. There must be a morphological being somewhere in Ted's ancestry; how else can you explain the fact that my toy-poodle-sized polar bear suddenly looked like a fluffy Saint Bernard puppy who has just been separated simultaneously from his mother, his litter, and the biggest bone he'll ever see?

"Oh, stop it already," I told my Muse irritably. "It's not the end of the world, you know. People can't connect with each other for one reason or another all the time. Only a couple more days, and the two of you can once more clutter up cyberspace with your wacky letters."

"I'm not 'people', I'm your Muse," Ted informed me with an offended sniffle, wiping his nose on my sleeve. "And our e-mails are not wacky; they're profound exchanges about the meaning of Life of two overworked, underappreciated beings who only have each other to turn to in times of great emotional distress."

I groaned.

"Have you been hitting the thesaurus again?" I asked Ted suspiciously. "Because if you did, I'm putting you on a diet. All that chocolate and coffee is making you sound like a talk show psychologist."

That threat usually works, but not this time. At least the waterworks had stopped — he can't do insulted and despairing at the same time.

"I've been increasing my vocabulary by leafing through your collection of dictionaries," Ted said, somewhat smugly, not the least perturbed. The little stinker knew I'd never do that to him. Not for long, anyway — it's not funny to have to deal with a cranky Muse. He climbed up on my lap and onto the desk from there, to peer curiously at the monitor. "What're you writing?"

"None of your business," I told him and hid the text from view. He'd been badgering me about writing a story about him and his buddy for some time now, and there was absolutely no need to let him see that I was still capable of producing a piece of fiction without him. Especially one that featured him.

As expected, Ted took exception to that.

"I thought I was supposed to help you write?" he complained. "How do you think I can do that if you won't let me see what you're writing?"

"Not everything is meant for a little bear's eyes," I tried to salvage the situation. He certainly had a point there, but I was not about to admit that to him. Not if I could help it.

"I'm not little!" came the inevitable protest, but I stood my ground on that one.

"Oh, okay — be that way! Just wait until you're stuck with a fic the next time. Then you'll come running for me, begging me on bended knees to help you out. See if I care then!"

I snorted. Not very elegant, or even ladylike, but what the heck.

"Yeah, right. Like you're helping me with 'Times Present, Times Past', or the Jason/Rocky story for OVG? And when have I ever begged you for anything on my knees?"

He waved that argument away with a chubby paw.

"So you yell at me to get my furry butt in gear," he shrugged. "Same difference — it's just a matter of semantics."

"Ted, if you insist on talking that way, I may have to exchange you for another model," I threatened. "I don't write that way. And most certainly not in the overblown way you used earlier. 'Profound exchanges on the meaning of Life', indeed! When I want to write Billy, I'll tell you."

"You can't write Billy. You write Jason, remember? And … you wouldn't really exchange me for somebody else, would you?" He gave me one of his Patented Cute Fuzzy Bear Looks.

"Don't tempt me," I warned him. I'm totally impervious to that Look, of course. I picked Ted up and started scratching between his ears, smiling as he started to wiggle with pleasure.

"For your information, I can too write Billy — I just don't want to. There are enough Yosties out there with hyperactive Muses that give their writers great ideas, in largenumbers and good style that we would be lost in the crowd. Before you ask, I'll give you just three names, although there are more: Cynthia, Peregrine and Mele. Besides, would you really want to compete directly with Murray?"

Ted sat up and looked at me in alarm.

"Murray? Oh man, of course! He provides Billy ideas to Mele! No, I don't want to get on his turf!" He rolled himself into a tight little ball on my lap. He usually does that when he's embarrassed but doesn't want to admit it.

"Bet I could do it better than him, though," he muttered.

"What was that?" I asked sharply. I'm having trouble enough coming up with new, semi-original ideas for my favourite Ranger; I certainly don't want to write about anyone else just because my Muse was playing a game of one-upmanship with his best buddy.

"Nothin'," my Muse mumbled into his fur, not looking at me.

"Good," I declared. One thing was sort of bugging me, though.



"Can I ask you a question?"

"That depends. Do I get a look at what you're writing?"

"Are you blackmailing me?" I asked suspiciously.

"Sorta," the shameless wretch admitted calmly. "Here's the deal: You let me have a look at what you're writing, you get to ask me a question which I may or may not answer, and maybe, just maybe I'll tell you how to resolve the conflict between Jason and Tommy in 'Times Present, Times Past'."

"That's a good deal for you, but not very good for me," I protested half-heartedly. I'm really stumped on that part of the story, and the rascal knew it, too.

"Take it or leave it," Ted said indifferently.

Grudgingly I put the text back on screen. Ted skimmed it quickly, then looked at me with glittering beady eyes.

"A Muse fic? You decided to write a story about me and wouldn't even tell me? What kind of author are you, anyway?"

"A desperate one. I miss Mele and her daily news just as much as you miss Murray, but do you hear me complain?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. But that's beside the point. What happened to the Muse Ninja Quest you promised to write for me? Huh? The one chance a bunch of us Muses have to do something heroic, to go on a Quest for our Sacred Human Spirits, and what do you do? Write a silly story about me missing that stupid Frog!"

"Murray isn't stupid," I contradicted him. "He sent me a very nice cyber postcard for my birthday. With Jason on it, too. You just went to sleep all day."

Ted just continued to glare at me. He was right, I had promised to write up the Muse Ninja Quest, but there were so many other things to do, I never really got around to it. I was not about to admit that, though. An author has her pride, doesn't she? Or something. I decided a change of subject was definitely in order.

"Look at it this way: At least I am writing a Muse fic for you. Murray doesn't have that yet."

Ted brightened considerably at that.

"Besides, what's with you and Murray, anyway? Every day Mele and I have to keep an eye on the two of you because you get into nothing but mischief, insulting each other, getting into silly arguments we have to referee …"

"It's a Muse thing," Ted told me loftily. "You wouldn't understand. And it's not silly."

"I understand that you almost squashed him several times when you tried to hug him, called the paramedics on him when he fainted, dunked him into my coffee, and generally make a pest of yourself."

"Well, he slurped that sticky tongue of his across my nose," my Muse complained. "He won't tell me how to tune in to the Playmuse Channel — why is it he can watch nude frog girls, and you freak when I want to take a peek at some shapely unfurred bear babes?"

I covered my eyes and moaned. Mele and I still have not quite recovered from that escapade and the hormonal fallout in our quite young male Muses.

"Ted, let's not get into that argument again, okay?" I pleaded. "Believe me, Mele and I know what we're doing when we restrict your TV watching to more apropriate channels. We have a bit more experience with that sort of thing, and …"

"Just because you're the third- and fourth-oldest PR fans on record doesn't give you any special insight into Muses," Ted said in an infuriatingly rational tone.

I just shook my head helplessly. Did I mention that I absolutely hate it when he brings my age up like this? Time to get back on topic.

"Okay, now you've seen what I'm writing. Do I get to ask you my question now?"

"You already did. Several, in fact."

"Don't get smart with me, or I will trade you in," I warned him. "Read your contract — pages 4 to 6, section C, paragraphs 1.3 to 2.1."

Ted took one look at me, scrambled off my lap, loped over to the bookshelf and dug out the two-inch thick folder containing his Standard Muse Contract. Leafing through it until he found the relevant passage, he read through it twice, then slammed the folder shut. Jamming it back into place, he wordlessly trudged back to the desk and let me pick him up by the scruff of his neck. Scowling blackly at me, he then wiggled into his customary place next to the monitor.

"Well?" I prompted him.

"Just ask your stupid question, okay? No need to rub it in." He sounded very put out. Not that I cared; it isn't often that I can quote his contract at him and be right.

"I was just wondering … you've been whining and moaning about not being able to talk to Murray for a few days now. Yet all the two of you are doing is be as nasty and insulting to each other as possible. That just doesn't fit together. What is it with the two of you, anyway? Are you friends, or not?"

Ted actually gave this a moment's thought. Which was quite unusual in itself; normally, he just runs off at the mouth and damn the consequences.

"It's just the way we are. He's my best bud, my bro. You should know about that."

I had to grin.

"Don't tell me the two of you are like Jason and Tommy? Laurel and Hardy, more likely."

"Ah, what do you know? You're only a Human. A female one, at that. You couldn't possibly understand us."

"I'm not sure I want to; the thought is rather scary," I muttered under my breath, careful that Ted shouldn't hear me.

I decided to end this argument. It wasn't very likely that I'd get a better answer out of Ted, much less one that made better sense. Besides, I kinda like the way those two are bickering with each other, although Mele and I have agreed never to tell them about this. We value our sanity too much — what there is of it, anyway. Our official stand on the matter is, they're cute, but the worst pain in our butts imaginable.

"If you say so, Ted," was all I said out loud.

"Is there anything you'd like to do tonight?" Better get his thoughts away from his favourite pastime and onto something else.

"As a matter of fact, yes," he answered to my surprise, looking at me with bright, sparkling black eyes. He is cute when he grins at me like that.

"And what would that be?" I asked him, eager to help my hardworking Muse to get over his withdrawal symptoms.

Ted drew a deep breath and tilted his head engagingly. I waited, smiling encouragingly.


I just slump in my desk chair and close my eyes in despair, groaning as my Muse breaks into maniacal giggles.

The End …


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